Garner new Illinois women's track coach

Garner new Illinois women's track coach

CHAMPAIGN — Nearly a month after Tonja Buford-Bailey left Illinois to become the associate head coach at Texas, Illinois has a new women’s track and field coach.

Illinois announced the hiring of Ron Garner on Friday to replace Buford-Bailey, who went to Texas after five seasons as head coach at her alma mater.

Garner was an assistant coach with the women’s track and field program at Illinois from 1991-98, serving as the team’s recruiting coordinator.

“It’s a very humbling experience to be able to return to a place I have been before,” Garner said. “My experience was so positive the first time and truly developed me as a professional. Illinois is a special place. It’s a great academic institution, and the quality of the student-athletes is second to none.”

Garner left Illinois in 1998 to become the head women’s track and field and cross country coach at Clemson, where he stayed until 1999.

Clemson won the 1999 ACC outdoor title with Garner at the helm.

He has spent the past two seasons at South Carolina as an assistant coach for the men’s and women’s programs, specializing in relays and sprints.

Garner coached Buford-Bailey during her All-America career at Illinois in the mid-1990s and played a part in Illinois winning six Big Ten titles during his first stint in Champaign-Urbana.

He is grateful for the success Buford-Bailey achieved at Illinois during her tenure and glad the program is in the shape it is today.

“I’m very proud of what Tonja has done with the program,” Garner said. “She is an exceptional coach and role model, and to be able to build on her foundation of the program is very important to me.”